6 Steps if You’re a Victim of Credit Card Fraud

So you’ve been super smart about protecting your personal information from credit card fraudsters. You did pretty much everything you thought you could to protect yourself. But still, , you’ve become a victim of credit card fraud. Unfortunately credit card fraud is on the rise in the U.S., and although recent technologies such as the EMV chip are designed to reduce the risk, you still need to be on high alert to keep your credit cards safe. Don’t panic. Here’s what to do in case you fall victim to fraud:

1. Contact your credit card company.
The first thing you should do is call the credit card company where the fraudulent charges were made and close affected accounts right away. This number can be found on the back of your credit card. Know that you will most likely not have to pay for any unauthorized charges. Once you are able to identify a suspicious charge, you are protected by the Fair Credit Billing Act, a federal law that limits your liability to $50, says Jason Steele, credit card expert for CompareCards.com.  “Yet in practice,” explains Steele, “nearly all card issuers waive this amount by having a zero liability policy.”

2. Change your online passwords.
To err on the side of caution, be sure to change your usernames, passwords, and PIN numbers for all your credit cards, banking accounts, and online store accounts. This will prevent the fraudsters from doing further damage. You can also turn off your cards immediately if you have CardNavSM by CO-OP, which is available at participating credit unions.

3. Contact the credit bureaus.
Contact one of the three credit agencies—TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax—to put a 90-day fraud alert on your credit. By telling one credit agency, the other two will also be notified. This is free and pretty easy.

You can also request a credit freeze, which restricts access to your credit report and prevents identity thieves from opening new accounts using your personal information. If a potential lender needs access to your credit report, you’ll need to request a temporary lift on the freeze. Depending on the laws of the state you live in, credit freezes may be free or carry a small charge. If you are a victim of identity theft it may also be free.

You’ll also want to request a copy of your credit report. You can get one for free at annualcreditreport.com. You can also obtain a free report after setting a fraud alert.

4. File a report with the Federal Trade Commission.
You can file a report by completing an online complaint form. From the info you include, the FTC will then create your Identity Theft Affidavit, which is a document that certifies you’ve been a victim of identity theft. It also contains all the necessary info credit bureaus and businesses need to help you to clean up the damage.

5. File a police report.
By filing a police report, you’ll have legal evidence of the incident. You’ll also able to request a credit freeze for free. Contact your local police department if they recommend you coming in person to file a report, doing it over the phone, or if they’ll have an officer come to you. Make sure you have as much information as possible before you file a report, such as the date of the incident and the amount stolen.

6. Check your credit card and bank statements frequently.
“The first thing that people need to know is that no one cares as much about your money as you do,” explains Matt Schulz, senior industry analyst at CreditCards.com. “That’s why it’s vital that you are extremely diligent in protecting yourself.” Schulz recommends checking your online banking account and credit card statements frequently. If you notice any signs of fraud, notify your bank right away. If your credit union offers Sprig® by CO-OP, you can easily keep tabs on your account activity.

While credit card fraud is a scary thing, taking these steps right away will minimize damage and prevent you from further incidences. With the right information and patience, you’ll be well on your way to correcting fraudulent charges and to a clean credit bill of health.

Editor’s Note: This post previously published on December 9, 2015.